It was his moment of glory when the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment on October 8, 2013, ordered three per cent reservation to all differently-abled persons in central and state government jobs.
For 59-year-old S.K. Rungta, it was the culmination of a 15-year-old legal battle. Almost 37 years after the Ministry of Social Justice promised it and 18 years after the Disablity Act made the quota mandatory, it had remained merely on paper forcing him to move the court.
Rungta had filed the petition in High Court in 1998 and the verdict was delivered in his favour. The governement challenged the ruling in Supreme Court. “The fact that I am myself disabled… visually impaired perhaps helped me fight for the cause of crores like me. I know the kind of discrimination the disabled face”, Rungta, also the general secretary of National Federation of Blind, told Mail Today.
In his battle for justice to the differently-abled, Rungta is not alone.
Pankaj Sinha, 32, is another visually impaired lawyer is too using public interest litigations (PIL) to the hilt to transform the lives of of differently-abled. And the prefer to do their work quietly.
Judges, lawyers and litigants in the Supreme Court, Delhi High Court and subordinate courts sympathise when they are led up the aisle to the front row by an assistant. But the moment they begin their argument, they are on par with any of the leading lawyers.
It was Rungta’s PIL in 1993 which resulted in Supreme Court allowing visually challenged candidates to appear for civil services examination using scribes (a person who can write down what the candidate dictates) or Braille (special typewriter for blind). Till then the UPSC did not permit it.
Rungta became the first visually impaired lawyer to get the rare “senior” tag when the judges of Delhi High Court voted to designate him on August 2, 2011. On the other hand Sinha shot into limelight when the High Court, on his plea, allowed the hearing impaired to drive. “If they meet the necessary criteria and pass the test, they shall be issued driving license”, said the court. Hitherto, the hearing impaired were barred from appearing in driving tests since the archaic
Motor Vehicles Act considered them a source of danger to the public.
Replying to another plea filed by Sinha, the high court asked Delhi University to ensure that grievances of blind students especially regarding mandatory courses in maths and science are addressed before beginning the four-year undergraduate programme.